Compare travel money exchanges to find the best place to buy euros, USD and more. These accounts let you buy travel money instore, online or from the airport.
What is Travel Money?
So, what is Travel Money? Fundamentally, travel money involves exchanging your sterling for foreign currency. If you’re heading to Europe, you’ll need to change your money into Euros and if you’re heading to the USA, you’ll need dollars. Each of these come with these come with their own exchange rates which can vary by the hour.
Every day, you will receive a slightly different exchange rate, which can have a significant impact on how much you pay. In an ideal world you’ll want the currency you’re buying to be cheap when you leave, but more expensive when you return, to give you a good deal in either direction.
You can buy it in many different ways:
- Currency exchange: The most common way is to simply exchange your sterling for a foreign currency. You can do this at the airport, through a bank, the Post Office, a supermarket or through an online provider. The advantage is that this puts your money in your hand. The downside is the fear of what happens if the money goes missing. Walking around with thousands of pounds in your bags will be enough to make anyone nervous.
- Debit/credit card: These days it is possible in many countries to use your bank debit or credit card. However, you should notify your bank that you’ll be travelling and check they cover your intended destination. If you don’t, they may flag a transaction as suspicious and block your card. Rates will vary and may be more expensive.
- Currency card: This works in much the same way as a debit or credit card. However, you will have preloaded it with currency. Some may offer the chance to load it with more than one currency at the same time. This offers the convenience of a debit card but also helps you to control your spending as there will only be a set amount on the card.
- Travelers’s cheques: This option is going out of fashion but can be a safe and reliable way to spend money. These are printed fixed amount cheques designed to allow the safe transfer of one currency to another. They are usually issued by banks and work as a guarantee of payment. They can never bounce because they have already been paid for. However, their use has been in decline, with credit or debit cards offering easier access to money.
Each option has its own strengths and weaknesses. Some offer convenience, others security or affordability. Many travelers will hedge their bets by using mixture of different options, such as taking a small amount of cash as backup but also using a card for convenience.
Travel Money Exchange Rates
Travel money exchange rates represent the amount of one currency you will get for another. For example, at the current time one pound in sterling is worth €1.17. They are changing all the time and are influenced by how much demand there is for a certain currency. Demand moves in according with a range of socio-economic factors. These are hard to predict and keep even the most experienced experts guessing.
Exchange rates vary from one provider to another due to the commission and margin each one charges. This is why the actual rate you get is much less than the mid-market rate you might see if you search on Google. This is what banks are charging and is the underlying value of one currency against another.
Providers may also charge fees for transactions which often vary depending on how much money you’re moving over.
You should check the small print to find out how much commission provider is charging. For example, if the main exchange rate is £1 to €1.17 and you decide to change £100, you should expect to receive €117. However, if the provider charges a 5%, they will deduct this from the amount you receive.
Depending on how you change your money, you may also face other charges including:
- Dynamic conversion rate: If you pay in sterling overseas, you’ll be charged a conversion rate.
- Cash advance fee: Charged to credit card providers who buy foreign currency when you’re borrowing from your credit limit.
- Daily interest charge: If you pay by credit card, you’ll pay interest on any balance.
- Transaction fee: If you use a credit card there may also be a transaction fee.
- ATM withdrawal fee: If you use a credit or debit card to withdraw money, there may be a fee for each withdrawal.
- Delivery fee: If you’ve ordered cash online in advance, you may be charged a delivery fee.
When choosing a currency provider, you should check all the fees which will be charged and their advertised rate. This will allow you to calculate how much you should receive. As a rule of thumb, the further in advance you order your currency the less you pay. You’ll be able to shop around for providers, change money when the rate is favourable and get a better deal.
If you’re doing it last minute, you might find yourself at the mercy of the rates charged by the airport’s Bureau de Change. They have a captive audience who have little choice, so tend to pay high fees.
To get the best rates, you should shop around and compare rates and fees between providers. Most have a calculator tool on their website, and we’ll use those when comparing rates between some of the providers listed below.
Travel Money Cash
One of the most common ways to get travel money has always been cash. You go to the bank, a travel agent or a bureau de change and simply change your pound sterling for whatever currency you need.
You then carry your cash around with you for the duration of your trip. This has the advantages of allowing you to limit how much you spend during your journey. Having a set amount of money on you will help you keep track of how much you are spending. The obvious downside of having cash physically on your person is that it may be stolen or lost.
It can also be expensive. Costs come in the form of commission which your provider will take out of the money you get back. So, if you’re changing pounds to dollars at $1.37 and your provider takes a 5% commission, you’ll get your $1.37 minus 5%. Commission rates vary. Generally speaking, the closer you are to your trip the more you should expect to pay.
Travel Money Cards
Travel money cards marry up the benefits of a credit or debit card with the benefits of cash. Like a debit card it allows you to get cash out of an ATM. This has the advantage of not having all your cash on your person. However, travel money cards are separate from your bank account. You will preload it with cash before your journey. It gives you a set amount to spend and helps you to stay inside your budget.
Different cards will vary in how many currencies they offer and how much they charge. Some, for example, will charge a cross currency fee for moving from one currency to another. Others will charge a fee for withdrawing left over currency when you get home. They may also charge an inactivity fee if the card is left untouched for a period of time. This is a good idea if you’re going on a longer trip and want to avoid multiple fees for withdrawing with a debit card.
Travel Money Buying Online
If you’re looking for travel money, buying online can be a good option. More and more of us are shopping online these days for all sorts of goods. Why should money be any different? You can receive your money in a number of ways: you can pick it up in store, have it delivered to the airport or to your home.
The big advantage is that exchange rates are often cheaper online than through your bank or at the airport. It’s a wide-open market and it’s much easier to shop around on the internet than it is to ring around a number of other providers. However, online providers may charge handling or delivery fees depending on how you want to receive your money, so it pays to research the total cost of your transaction, aside from just the exchange rates.
Top providers include Travelex and the Post Office as well as many of the leading high street banks and supermarkets which have a travel money option. Many of their in-store bureaus are currently closed due to the pandemic, but most are still offering services online.
Travel Money by Post for Delivery
If you’re well organised, you can order travel money by post for delivery before you leave for your trip. This can often be a more affordable way to change money with providers often offering more attractive rates than you’d receive at the airport. However, providers differ in terms of fees, speed of delivery and the number of currencies they cover.
Finding them is relatively easy. There is a host of online providers out there allowing you to order travel money and have it delivered to your home or to the airport. Most offer next day delivery so it’s quick, simple and affordable.
Some of the most popular providers include the Post Office, most major supermarkets as well as a number of specialist foreign currency exchange companies services such as Eurochange, The Currency Club and Four EX. Most will charge commission as well as a delivery fee. This often reduces the more currency you order. For example, Eurochange offers a standard fee of £2.99, but is free for totals of more than £1,000.
Post Office Travel Money
The Post Office is one of the most popular sources of travel money around. They allow you to choose between more than 60 currencies with the option of changing anything between £200 and £2,500. They offer competitive exchange rates with a standard fee of £4.99 but values of more than £500 are free of charge.
It’s one of the better value options available. For £500 you can expect to receive €580 or USD$680.
You can buy money online or at one of their branches with cash or card, and either have it sent to your home, or arrange to collect it from your nearest Post Office. If your holiday is cancelled for any reason, they will also give you a full refund.
ASDA Travel Money
Asda Travel money gives you a range of options when buying money. You can buy instore by going to one of their travel money bureaus, a great option if you’re buying at the last minute; you can buy online with a credit or debit card and choose from home delivery or click and collect to pick up your cash from their store.
Buying is simple, you can do so with a debit or credit card or with basic cash. You can also choose their travel currency card and load it up with prepaid cash. They also offer an exchange rate guarantee. If buying from one of their stores, they promise to beat any offer if you can find a better rate nearby.
According to their site, £500 will get you €574, or $672.60. There is a £3.95 fee for home delivery, while values over £500 are free.
Debenhams Travel Money
The Debenhams travel money bureaus are now closed. However, you can still buy their prepaid travel money cards by calling 020 7118 1130.
It allows you to preload with cash and withdraw money from ATMs abroad or wherever you see the MasterCard acceptance mark.
You can also use it to buy dollars or euros. It is, they say, cheaper safer than travellers’ cheques and comes with a 24/7 lost and stolen card service which protects your funds if it goes missing. It is quite expensive compared to buying travel money. £500 will get you €535.70 or $634.95.
Sainsbury’s Travel Money
Due to COVID restrictions Sainsbury’s travel money bureaus are temporarily closed. When they reopen, you can expect competitive rates and zero percent commission. Nectar members also benefit from preferential rates. Their service works online and in store, so you could either order home delivery of currency or go to one of their stores.
For home delivery you receive next day delivery excluding the islands and islands or collect in store at no extra cost. They also buy foreign currency so if you have any left over, you can sell it back to them.
Tesco’s Travel Money
Tesco’s Travel money service offers the opportunity to buy money in store or online. COVID19 restrictions did impact their service a little, but they continue to offer an extensive range of services.
You can order money online for collection in store at one of more than 200 customer service desks in Tesco stores. Alternatively, you can order home delivery. As a result of the pandemic restrictions, however, Royal Mail times can no longer guarantee next day delivery.
According to their online currency calculator, £500 would currently buy you €573.50 or $672. For home delivery options they charge a fee of £3.95 for values under £500. If you order before 2pm between Monday and Thursday, they will send money using Royal Mail Special Delivery.
John Lewis Travel Money
John Lewis Travel money offers competitive rates with zero commission in up to 60 currencies including Euros, Dollars and Dirhams. In normal times, you would be able to buy online or from one of their in-store desks, however in line with government guidelines they are currently only offering their online service.
You can choose for home delivery on the next working or use click and collect to pick up your money at John Lewis or Waitrose stores. Their current standard charge is £5.50 for values up to £1,000 after which delivery is free.
According to their website, £500 will buy you €580 or $680.
Marks and Spencer (M&S) Travel Money
Marks and Spencer (M&S) travel money offers a choice between up to 40 currencies, with the options of same day click and collect. Due to COVID 19 restrictions it has closed its instore bureau de change, as have many other providers, but these will be up and running again once restrictions have been lifted. Exchange rates are competitive but change depending on the service you choose. You can expect better rates using their standard click and collect than their same day or in store options.
Currently, according to their website £500 would get you €565.75 using their same day click and collect, €575.25 with the standard click and collect or €565.75 with their current bureau rate. For US dollars, you would receive $662.4 using their bureau de change or same day click and collect service or $672.05 for using their standard service.
M&S also offers the chance to sell back any unused foreign currency. Alternatively, you can donate it to charity.
Tui Travel Money
Alongside their travel agency services Tui Travel money offers a wide range of currency services. These include a multi-currency money card with a buy back guarantee, as well as the chance to buy money online for home delivery or collection in store.
It offers zero commission on more than 50 currencies. Store collection is generally available within two working days as long as you make an order before 2pm. COVID 19 restrictions have impacted in store operations which may have an impact on lead times.
You can expect next day delivery from orders made before 2pm. You should expect them to arrive before 9pm the next working day by Royal Mail special delivery. You should try to make sure you’re in for delivery to avoid delays and frustration. Home delivery charges are £4.99 for transactions up to £600 after which they are free of charge. They have a currency converter app available on apple or iPhone, but not on their desktop.
For foreign currency transfers, they have partnered with Western Union to deliver an online transfer service. Meanwhile, their multicurrency card allows you to load up to 13 different currencies onto the same card with the exchange rate fixed at the time of purchase.
Travel Money Apps
The mobile market is booming so there is a host of travel money apps to help you exchange currencies or manage your spending during your trip. They are generally free to download and offer the same services you might expect through the online portal such as currency converters, the chance to buy currency. Others such as the Travel Money app, available on the Google store help you manage your spending while you travel. The app is great for group travel and can monitor what each person is spending, what they own or any monies they owe to the group.
Most are free of charge to download, and simply offer an alternative way to access travel money services.
Travel Money Pros
Travel money pros include, choice, affordability and having one big chuck on change in your hand to limit your spending. But you should always check the terms on offer from each provider:
- You have a set amount to spend: Buying your travel money in advance is a good way to set the amount you will spend. When you’re on holiday, you’ll be in a buying mood and if you’re using your debit card it can be all too easy to go over budget.
- Choice: There are many providers available so if you make your exchange before you travel there’s a good chance to shop around and get a better deal.
- Cost: With debit card withdrawals you may have to pay a fee for making a withdrawal. Credit cards, meanwhile, often incur a high withdrawal fee as well as interest.
- Security: A debit card transaction may be flagged up by your bank as suspicious and the card may be frozen. This could leave you somewhat stranded in a foreign country with no way to access cash.
Travel Money Cons
There are a number of travel money cons to think about. These include:
- What happens if it gets lost? If you take money in a big chunk, you’re always running the risk of losing it. If you decide to buy all your money at the airport, you’ll find yourself constantly stressing about where it is.
- Cost: The price of buying travel money can vary and some providers produce a host of different fees. The difference between the best and worst providers can be huge.
- Flexibility: Using options such as a debit or credit card allows you to react to events and online by as much or as little currency as you need.
- Exchange rates: Currency exchange rates are in constant motion. If they move in the wrong direction during your trip you could find yourself out of pocket.
Travel Money Alternatives
Thanks to the wonders of digital technology we all now have a host of travel money alternatives when taking money overseas. Indeed, with the rise of crypto currency there are some people who envisage a world where we can buy anything we want using bitcoin or another virtual currency. However, although some businesses do accept bitcoin, we’re still someway from that world yet.
For now, you may choose between buying your money online, taking it in cash in a bank, using your debit or credit card, topping up a prepaid currency card or using Travellers’ cheques. The market is filling up with new providers all the time.
Traditional options such as banks, the post office or travel agents are being challenged by supermarkets and a host of low-cost online providers.
Each have their own strengths and weaknesses. Cash gives you a solid amount of money to work with from the outset. Cards give you flexibility and the knowledge of knowing all is not lost if you mislay cash.
Sometimes the best option is to use a blend of everything. Always take a certain amount of cash with you. This ensures you will be covered if something goes wrong with a card. However, back this up with credit, debit, prepaid cards or travellers’ cheques to ensure you’re not reliant on keeping track of physical money. As the old saying goes: ‘be prepared’ and, if at all possible, try not to put all your eggs into one basket.